Infectious Diseases

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What is Influenza?

Influenza (the flu) is a serious lung illness caused by a virus. Anyone can get the flu but those over 65, children, people with lasting medical conditions, and   pregnant women are at risk for developing problems such as pneumonia. The usual flu season in Canada is from November to April.

How is Influenza spread?

Influenza is spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. The droplets from a cough or sneeze are expelled through the air and enter the mouth or nose of another person or land on an object. When the person touches the object and then touches their own mouth or nose before washing their hands they become infected.

Infected people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Children, especially younger children, might be infectious for longer periods.

What signs should I watch for?

Influenza signs include headache, chills, cough, fever, runny eyes, stuffy nose, and sore throat, lost appetite, muscle aches, extreme weakness and fatigue. Children may get the croup, ear infections, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea when they have the flu.

 How is influenza diagnosed?

The flu is diagnosed when a sample of nasal secretions is collected using a nasal swab.

 What is the treatment for influenza?

The best way to stop you and your family from becoming sick is to get a flu shot every year. If you get the flu your doctor can order antiviral medications that may help reduce the time you are if the medicine is started within 48 hours of becoming sick

What is the difference between a cold and influenza?







High fever 102 F 39 C

sun onset lasts 3-4 days



Usual-can be severe

Sometimes mild

General aches and pains

Usual-often severe

Sometimes mild

Fatigue and weakness

Usual severe may last 2-3 weeks or more


Extreme fatigue

Usual early onset-can be severe


Runny stuffy nose






Sore throat


Sometimes mild to moderate

Chest discomfort

Usual can be severe

Can lead to sinus congestion or earache


Can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure can worsen a current chronic condition can be life threatening

 *Colds do not generally result in serious health problems such as pneumonia or bacterial infections.

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How do I protect myself and others?

Annual influenza vaccination is the only proven method of prevention, preferably 2 weeks before the beginning of the active flu season.

If you or someone in your home has the flu, there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better and avoid spreading the virus to others. Stay home and get plenty of rest. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, particularly after coughing or blowing your nose.

To ease the symptoms of flu:

  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine.
  • Take basic pain or fever relievers.
  • Do not give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin®) to children or teenagers under the age of 18.
  • Apply heat for short periods of time using a hot water bottle or heating pad to reduce muscle pain.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Gargle with a glass of warm water or suck on hard candy or lozenges.
  • Use saline drops or spray for a stuffy nose.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

What if my child is sick?

If your child is suffering from the flu, you should seek medical care immediately if his or her symptoms improve and then suddenly become worse. In addition, seek care if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Fast or difficult breathing.
  • Bluish or dark-coloured lips or skin.
  • Drowsiness to the point where he or she cannot be easily wakened.
  • Severe crankiness or not wanting to be held.
  • Dehydration – not drinking enough fluids and not going to the bathroom regularly.
For data on the incidence of Influenza in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario, please visit the Influenza page on the health unit’s HealthSTATS site
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